Senate Bill 174 signed at local Black-owned hair salon

Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 8:20 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Thursday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed Senate Bill 174 at Anchorage hair salon A Head of Time Design Academy.

Owner of A Head of Time Rosalyn Wyche says the event was one of honor.

Sen. David Wilson sponsored SB 174, a bill that will allow K-12 students to not be discriminated against by school policies regarding hairstyle. Additionally, the bill will allow students to wear traditional regalia and other culturally significant items during school graduation ceremonies.

Sen. Wilson said that the bill is dear and near to him because of past experiences he — and his friends and family members — have faced. Wilson says that he heard stories of students getting sent home because teachers couldn’t understand the context of the hairstyle.

“Feeling that it was unkept or unclean,” said Wilson.

Wyche, who testified in support of the bill, hopes and continues to fight for this opportunity to be extended to the workforce. Wyche says that culture means a lot, and people should be able to express themselves through their culture.

“I think culture means a lot, and that’s in hairstyles, the clothes we wear, and I just think this is an awesome bill,” Wyche said.

A bill to address this issue in the workplace was introduced in the House of Representatives but was not passed. However, Sen. Wilson hopes that he can try again to get a bill in place during the next legislative session to end discrimination in work environments.

“Having those types of opportunities was just a blessing to be able to pass something like this and what it means for a large part of the community,” Wilson said. " we’re unfortunate that it did get taken out of the workplace. It was an amendment that happened on the house floor, but we feel that hopefully, going into next session, we can hopefully get that piece passed.”

Wyche said she wouldn’t think that anyone would have to fight to wear their natural hair, to not have their children be discriminated against, or not be fired because of their natural hair.

“The ability to express oneself has not always been granted to every facet of our society, “ said Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, who co-sponsored the bill. “Unfortunately for so many Black Americans, this notion is particularly true. For centuries, Black Americans have had laws policing their identities: specifically, their hair. SB 174 is a step in the right direction towards reconciliation and allowing all facets of our community to freely express themselves without fear or discrimination.”

The bill initially passed the Senate 13-1 on March 30, and later passed the House of Representatives 34-5 on May 10. The addition to the bill was accepted in a 17-3 vote by the House of Representatives.

The addition of being able to wear traditional regalia was placed into the bill by Rep. Mike Cronk to help protect students from being discriminated against for wanting to wear cultural attire during a ceremony.

“It’s a blessing that now it’s law. And when you have a bill that is law, it’s there,” Wyche said.